Why Consulting Is A Job Everyone Needs To Experience

house of lies

When you look at me, what do you see? Probably an entrepreneur, right?

Although I am an entrepreneur, I see myself as a consultant. I spent the first 6 years of my career running a consulting company and helping businesses with their Internet marketing needs.

It’s where I got my start, and although I hated the work, the skill set I got from consulting is priceless.

Here’s why you need to experience consulting as a job… even if it’s a short one:

Reason #1: Problem solving

No matter what field you are consulting in, your job is to identify problems and fix them.

If you are lucky, you’ll have free reign to do whatever you want, but chances are you’ll have to solve the problem within specific guidelines. This means you’ll have to be creative and start thinking outside the box.

This is important for you to learn because it will teach you not only how to solve problems, but also how to do this across any industry. This means you can work in any field in the future because you can adapt to any environment.

If you decide to stay with the 9 to 5 route, you will be more valuable to your employer as you will be able to handle any problem they might throw at you.

Reason #2: You’ll learn to speak your mind

A consultant isn’t an employee. Sure, you maybe working for a consulting firm or your own firm, but when you go to different businesses to help them out, you’re considered a consultant… not an employee.

As a consultant, you won’t be shy to speak your mind and tell companies what they are doing wrong. Why? Because you are getting paid to do that!

Speaking your mind is a really important trait… these days there are too many people who are afraid to do this in the corporate world. By speaking your mind, you are helping your co-workers or the company who hired you. So, always say what you are thinking, especially if it benefits the company.

Reason #3: You’ll learn how to keep a job

If you ever worked at a large corporation, you know that there are plenty of people who just twiddle their thumbs every day. To make matters worse, they keep getting paid without doing much work, and no one ever dares to fire them.

As a consultant, you won’t have that luxury. Businesses have much more strict rules when it comes to laying off an employee versus firing a consultant. Typically, they can fire a consultant without requiring any approval from their superior.

This means that you have to continually earn your spot as a consultant. You will have to keep working hard and consistently provide exceptional results. You’ll learn how to fight to stay alive and never give up.

Reason #4: Communication

The best thing I’ve learned as a consultant is how to communicate effectively. You won’t be working in an office every day, and you know your gig isn’t steady.

You’ll have to keep providing results, as I mentioned in reason number 3 above. Providing results, however, isn’t enough; you need to show them. You do this through reports, emails, phone calls, meetings and any other form of communication you can think of.

By hearing from you on a regular basis, they will know that you are working and producing results. The moment you stop communicating is the day they’ll think you are goofing off, which will lead to you being fired.

You can’t take communication for granted since it’s important no matter what you do in life.

Reason #5: Deadlines

Don’t you hate it when people miss deadlines? I’m so used to it these days that I expect certain people within my organization to be delayed, and I even account for it on my end.

Well, you won’t have the luxury of missing your deadlines as a consultant. You either hit them, or else you’ll face consequences.

I still remember each of the deadlines I missed because it usually lead to me getting fired or not being paid for the work I put in. It taught me the importance of being timely and meeting the deadlines.

What you’ll really learn is that a lot of people within a company can affect your deadline. Sometimes it isn’t you who is causing the delay, so you’ll have to learn how to manage people and timelines.

Reason #6: C-level experience

No, you’re not going to be the CEO as a consultant. But you do get to interact with CEOs or other high-level executives.

They are the ones who approved hiring you, and they write your check. You’ll have to learn how to sell yourself and your solutions. This is a very valuable experience because in the corporate world, you can’t just do anything you want. You typically have to get a buy-in from other people.

If things don’t go your way and you get shot down a few times, don’t worry about it. Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward. Eventually, you’ll learn how to convince executives to do what you think is best for them. It took me a few years to get there, but now, I am great at selling to C-level executives.

Reason #7: Money management

It doesn’t matter if you are consulting for a big corporation with billions of dollars in the bank or a small startup. Everyone has budget constraints.

You’ll have to learn how to play within the constraints to get the job done. You’ll get first-hand experience when it comes to trimming the fat, figuring out ways to be more efficient and stretching the dollar as far as it can possibly go.

Best of all, you’ll learn how to keep track of expenses, which is something that everyone can use. You can’t run a company without being conscious about how much you’re spending on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Conclusion

Consulting taught me all of the things above plus a lot more. Whether you think it’s sexy or boring to be a consultant, you should give it a shot. Even if it is for a period of six months or a year, you’ll learn a lot.

So what do you think, are you ready to be a consultant? And what else do you think we can all learn from consultants?

P.S. Being a consultant is nothing like Mad Men. ;-)

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Comments

  1. Neil, again a good piece of article, your every article is to the point and worth reading. I always get something new from your stuff. Keep it up :)

  2. I’ve gotten asked to consult a number of times through my blog, but have turned them down up to this point. I’m often surprised how much consulting you seem to do with how successful your businesses are. What’s your main driver for wanting to continue doing as much consulting as you do at your current stage, as opposed to launching a new company of your own?

    • I don’t take on as many clients as it seems from the surface level. But I do enjoy talking to a lot of companies, learning what they are doing, what’s working, what isn’t… I do it because those conversations give me a lot of ideas for my own business.

      • Neil,

        Your reasoning in this comment, behind why you participate in consulting, proves that you are moreso an entrepreneur than a consultant!!

        :-P

        I am very similar. I spent 5 years consulting fortune 500s, and now I am in your boat. I start up companies while I continue to consult on a somewhat selfish level just to learn and gain ideas for my own businesses.

        Enjoyed this post!

        Cheers,
        Keller

  3. I was thinking exactly about Mad Man :)

  4. Beeing a consultant is sometimes beeing like a general doctor… when your patient doesnt take the medication… or change the posology…. its failing and they put blame on you.

    I love when somethimes I’m like the ER or surgeon : you plan, execute and iterate… and then results come !

    • I would add that having a consulting job gives you an insight on the inner-workings of a business. The more diverse your portfolio the more diverse your business experiences really become. It’s fascinating to see how businesses appear on the outside and then as a consultant actually being able to experience how they work internally. Oftentimes you will be astonished.

    • Jean, great analogy, it couldn’t be more accurate.

  5. Great article and very to the point. I have been an employee, served as a consultant and owned my own business. The latter two were far more rewarding as I had a certain level of freedom, not necessarily time as we know how much effort it takes, but in how we are able to conduct and control how we operate.

  6. Consulting can be a unique job experience and it sounds challenging according to this post. (And I like challenges :) ) But at the same time it requires mastery over the field too.

    Maybe I would also consider consulting one day when I get more expertise in my fields. Till then I would have to follow your success stories :)

  7. The biggest thing I’m learning is how to sell. It doesn’t matter how great you are at your work if you can’t get jobs. Thanks for the article!

  8. Neil,
    Great article. Keeping it real and honest [without losing sight of respectfulness] is the only way to do business. Doing anything less than that is a waste of everyone’s time.

    I love your advice.

    Thank you,
    Rita

  9. Great article, I am venturing into the consulting field myself and your articles always give me insight on how to be more efficient and sale not only my products and services but myself.

    Also, in Reason number 2 I think you forgot to include not: By not speaking your mind, you_ are helping your co-workers or the company who hired you.

  10. Neil, This is exactly what it’s like. I’ve worked for a few of the largest professional service firms, ie Deloitte & PwC. The two thing that always mattered most were the importance of consistent communication with the client AND the appearance of production.
    With budget constraints it’s imperative to justify your existence through different ideas or solutions.

  11. Well my question is that businesses are so deep rooted and thoroughly developed that consulting for a shorter period of time isn’t enough to create miraculous success for the company or even to root out all its evils and put it on the right track…and can we spend years consulting any company while putting our own things aside ?

  12. Neil,

    This is spot on!

    Consulting can be challenging AND rewarding, but results are what keep us in business.

    I resonated best with Reason #3 & #4. They are the ones that I’ve learned the most about.

    Great post!

    Mike

  13. Yes Neil, consulting is not just a job, it is an professionalism. I always want to be an consultant and putting my feet forward for it even. I always wanted to be as an financial consultant, but after I put my step in blogging world, I am more of being an SEO or blogs consultant. But my love for both is same as in one I had master’s, while other I have experience, so planning to be as an techno finance consultant ;) All seven heaven points you describe are totally needed to be a consultant. One more point I like to add, if I am not wrong, that is broad outlook :)

  14. Neil,

    Can you also write an article how to Kickstart online strategy in terms of sale

  15. Hey Neil, your post comes at a time when I am on the verge of securing my first job as a SEO consultant.

    I work in Beijing and used my basic knowledge of SEO and conversion optimisation to make a few SEO websites for my previous employer (a small Chinese trading company). The sites have been a huge success and feed the sales team dozens of enquiries a month.

    Since quitting that company 2 weeks ago (to follow my entrepreneurial dreams) I have since been given an opportunity to consult for a Chinese state owned company that is just about to enter the Fortune 500. A much much bigger fish.

    Naturally I am euphoric to get such an opportunity and what they’re offering to pay me is equivalent to two year’s salary in my last job for just 2 month’s work.

    But…I am scared sh*tless because I have never worked freelance and don’t have my own in-house team of programmers or graphic designers to call upon like I did in my previous job. Furthermore, although I know a lot about offsite SEO I’ve never physically done it myself.

    However, despite the fact I feel like I am out of my depth and should turn it down for the sake of avoiding the assassination or deportation for not meeting their expectations I’m going to take the job because like you said, why not give it a shot? I’ll learn heaps from the experience and think that feeling like there’s a gun to my head will push me to get the job done! ;)

    • Richard, I’m in a similar spot as you, but when it comes down to it, I tell myself that this is what I wanted and it’s sink or swim, and I was tired of being in second gear.
      Good luck out there. I’m sure you’ll sort it out.

      • Hey Hudson, thanks for your support and motivation :) Will try to notch into fifth gear ASAP!

        Nice to know there’s someone else experiencing a similar thing and best of luck to you too!

    • Richard, sounds like a terrific opportunity that you have been very fortunate to get. I say have confidence and put in the work and the sky is the limit. Let me know if you need any help. :)

      • Thanks Neil! In fact I do have something that requires your help if you have one minute?

        I’m currently road testing you and Brian Dean’s Advanced Guide to Link Building by writing an epic piece of content.

        I’m doing an expert roundup as suggested in Chapter 3. So far I have many awesome replies (including Brian’s) to the roundup but it’d be even better if I can get an answer from you. Here’s the question:

        If you could only use 3 SEO tools for your link building campaigns which 3 would you choose? e.g. BuzzStream, OSE, Ahrefs.

        Thanks in advance and I’ll let you know when the results post goes live :)

    • Richard its great that you are finally taking a chance to brighten your future. Let this be the motivator that keeps you ticking and moving forward. If you’re passionate about it, you will succeed. Best of luck!

    • Be bold and own it. These are the moments that will define you.

  16. Thank you for useful post. Agree about the mad man Neil. ))

  17. Great article Neal. I always looked at my work as a management consultant as a precursor to becoming an entrepreneur for all of the reasons you listed. Its the only things I’ve done in my career so going to a normal job would be difficult.

  18. It is incredible article, Neil…I find it particularly stimulating and on point. Effective communication & speaking your mind goes hand in hand…It is vital to your success once you are in the game…You do what you have to to stay in game…your survival in the game depends on it!

  19. Great article! One book I read that peeked my interest into consulting was The McKinsey Mind which gave insight into work ethnic and culture of the firm.

  20. I occasionally get calls from random people who want me to do SEO on their sites. I reject 95% of them because they sound like the ones (over phone) who can sue me if they don’t get the results in the end. :D

    I got a call from someone a few weeks back who wanted me to rank his warez site high up in SERPs, so that he gets lots of organic traffic and get approved in Google AdSense. When I told him that AdSense doesn’t accept warez sites, he tried to argue with me. That was a $500 offer for a small single WordPress site, but I’m always afraid of taking offers from this kind of people. When I know that the result that someone wants is impossible to achieve, I better reject his/her proposal instantly. :)

    • Rohit, Great points. You should really do your research and see what works best when finding the right client. Sometimes when expectations are not mutual problems can arise.

  21. Having had worked as a consultant for about 4 years now at two different companies, I cannot disagree more. The only point I agree with is Reason 3 – Consulting Teaches you to keep a job, which is true with many other careers as well. My primary disagreement with your article is your contention that being in consulting teaches you to be an entrepreneur.

    First lets start out with the claim you make in the beginning that “I am an entreprenuer”

    Entrepreneur can mean many different things. A Subway Franchise owner can be considered an entrepreneur although the challenges he faces would be fundamentally different then say Jack Dorsey or en entrepreneur of web services. I don’t honestly consider you an entrepreneur, I consider you a creative marketer that sells services. The structure of the services is identicle to any other company; you work on contract basis, you have billable hours, you hire consultants, and you have hierarchy. Your approximation of being an “entrepreneur” that qualifies you to give advice to other entrepreneurs is misguided.

    No we can go into the arguments you make as to why being a consultant helps you to be an entrepreneur. With the exception of number 3 – Learn to work a job, every single point you make is false. As a consultant you solve problems, but the solution can never be too risky or ground breaking. You walk the line basically. You also learn to REACT within a paradigm of a corporation; very different then an entrepreneur. It does not teach you to take initiative, to be creative, to be resourceful. Resourcefulness yet another major point difference, arguably one of the biggest attributes to a successful entrepreneur, a company does not teach you to be resourceful.

    I cannot disagree more with this article. You want to be an entrepreneur? Take jobs where you learn and do; get your hands dirty.

    • I am not trying to point out how these things will help you as an entrepreneur or they are or aren’t related to entrepreneurship.

      When I was a consultant, and many of the guys I know who are consultants, get their hands dirty. By getting your hands dirty and having to provide results to keep your gig, you learn things like taking initiative.

  22. Thank you Neil!

    I have attempted consulting for a bit but found it discouraging.

    How would you approach a business that doesn’t know that they have issues that you can help them solve? Even worst, a business that knows that they have issues but they don’t have the time to address them?

    I would appreciate your insight.

  23. Another great post Neil,

    Under Communications I would add “managing expectations”. Ability to understand client’s expectations and then match or exceed them is a crucial skill for consultants or consulting firms. If expectations aren’t reasonable before a project start than the value delivered might not be well appreciated or understood.

    Sounds like consulting can be a source of learning and accelerated growth for many, a food for thought.

  24. Hi,

    I feel that communication is second in most important.
    first important is money management as we know that
    there may be famine ahead.

    regards
    vinodh

  25. What is a good way to begin to be a consultant? Where would I start and how do I get clients? Thanks

    • Julian,
      I think building out a website and creating a form would be a good start. Also, providing testimonials and building out a blog with great content would be very beneficial.

      • Thanks Neil,

        One more question. What kind of companies are looking for consultants? Are all companies willing to listen to me if I have advise for them? How do I get clients? Do I cold call/email? Thanks again

  26. Thanks Neil, what a great — and true — article! I’m a consultant in the not-for-profit sector and you there is no slacking I can tell you. But as you mention, not only do you get to meet great new clients, you get to talk to a lot of folks you never would have before.
    A great learning experience everyday.
    Tracey

  27. Neil, you wrote an awesome headline for your next article (I hope):

    “how to convince executives to do what you think is best for them”

    I just started out as a consultant, and I am running into the exact challenges you mention. Great article; I wish I had read it sooner.

  28. Hi Neil,

    I have 3 main clients that I do SEO and other digital marketing for and am finding it very hard to handle the work load. As I am reluctant outsource overseas. An article on pricing your service based around a retainer model would be very helpful as well as work load management.
    Great article thanks!

  29. Hi Neil,

    Great article. I’ve done some consulting work in the past mostly for state level governments. They’ve usually engaged me to come up with an action plan and training but they usually handle the execution.

    I usually see a lot of the projects fizzle once they get to that stage as employees don’t have the resources or their isn’t someone internally pushing for the project’s success. Any tips? Or do you see that as a case of job done and it’s the company’s failure?

    • I make sure that there is a person supporting it from the instead and is really passionate so it doesn’t fizzle out later on.

      That’s the solution that has worked for me in the pass.

  30. Wonderful article! I have been making plans to work into consultation work within the next three years. I love the ability to teach, to think creatively, and to help people solve problems.

    Great article — thank you!

  31. Hey Neil,

    Thank You for sharing these #7reasons on Consulting Experience, Your every article is to the point and worth reading. I always get something new from your stuff. Keep it up

    Regards
    Mark Nordlicht

  32. Nice reflection Neil.

    I also think it’s a good idea to learn consulting because you can do it as a short-term gig on the side as you grow your venture. It’s another way to bootstrap your company or fund it until you can prove enough milestones to attract outside capital.

    But I prefer your “how to” online marketing posts better.

    • Alexandra, great points. It’s a good stepping stone. I wanted to get away from the how-to for this post because people have been asking me about consulting.

  33. Good article, Neil! You never disappoint! :)

  34. Hi Expert !

    Very informative tips ! hey Neil want to ask a question !!

    Where is your quicksprout.com blog’s search bar for searching other previous post ?

  35. Hi Neil, your articles are a treasure. I have some upcoming blogs on money and other life matters. Do you have a rewrite/refer policy? You yourself advised in one of your articles not to waste time re-inventing the wheel, e.g. writing on issues when others have already done so.

    Regards,
    John

  36. Hello Neil,

    Great post!

    Reason # 4, communication is the sure way to register your presence. But it should be always timely.

  37. I’m absolutely not capable of being a consultant. So I’ll give it a skip. Good points raise though, Neil, and I’m sure it’s a job many folk would be suited to.

  38. Very good points. Apart from all the above mentioned ones, I think the greatest joy of consulting comes from helping other businesses and the validated learning that comes from it!

    BTW, apart from consulting do you do speaking & training as well?

  39. I’ve been a consultant and/or director for the last 10 years. Got to say, this is pretty much spot on. I will say, that while you need to speak your mind. There is an art to it. If you present your ideas in a certain way it is sure to ruffle less feathers and results in less backlash. I usually try to compliment what they have already done, before telling them about the “opportunities.” And then when it comes down to implementation, there is always a little wiggle room, but it is critical to spearhead the project. Nice post Niel. – @johnelincoln

  40. Great points Neil. I left a cushy corporate marketing job to start a consulting group focused on driving growth for early stage tech companies. It’s taken four years of making every mistake twice, but we’re finally getting the hang of everything you highlight.

  41. Great reasons, I will add another one.

    You will find out that everyone else really doesn’t know what they are doing either. It is an eyeopener to see that most business are just muddling through. It gives you the power to take chances and not worry about getting it perfect the first time through.

  42. Neil, excellent post. I’ve been consulting companies for the past 3 years and everything you’ve written has been spot on with my experience.

    I’d love to read about quicksprout and your pro package. I’ve read different posts of your analytic breakdown on quicksprout, but haven’t found an overview of your pro sales page, sales video and what kind of sales, etc. you’ve seen as your site has grown. Even your contact page, I’m curious if making it into an inforgraphic reduced incoming emails, shortened them, etc. Thanks for your generous and thoughtful posts.

  43. What type of consultation work are you talking about? SEO or anything else or is this a general post for all types of consulting work?

  44. You ! are really awesome sir,Thanks for the article.I will definitely try in this field.

  45. Consulting is probably one of my favorite things along with CRO. Nothing better than seeing a company grow due to your consulting :)
    Once again, a great post Neil!

    Luka

  46. That is outstanding and spot on material. Number six is definitely a powerful value for junior and mid-level professionals wanting to evolve to the senior executive level. Just be prepared, it is a turbulent path where your A-game is necessary to survive.

  47. After reading your article sir I have came to an all new conclusion or I can say a rejuvenated moral of the story. I think that you can market your skills and your products and services of your own company (if you hold a small firm or can say a startup venture) its going to boom you through the toughest competition. Consulting jobs opens up an all new space for marketing. Your article has been successful enough to change my look-out regarding the consulting thing. :P :)

    And I am going to quote your words “You either hit the deadlines, or else you’ll face consequences.”. This is going to be my next fb status update. :)

    Thanks a lot for being such a concrete guide.

    With best regards :)

    • Charmie, glad I could help. I think it really allows people to step up to the plate and move quick on their feet. It’s not for everyone but some people find it is the right for them :)

  48. Thanks for this piece. As a dental insurance consultant I agree with all of these points. Consulting definitely teaches you to be an independent thinker…and doer.

  49. Neil,

    Can you give a tip on how to price your services when you start a consulting company?

  50. Adam Nguyen :

    Neil,

    Thanks for the great post, it really affirmed my belief in what I’m doing right now.

    I recently started freelancing as a marketing consultant. I have yet to land my first client, but I’ve been picking myself up when I get shot down, and learning(at least trying to) from each experience.

    Neil, are there any resources/online training you would recommend to someone looking to learn how to sell to C-suite executives? All the books I’ve found aside from SPIN Selling, seem to teach sleazy used car-dealer type sales techniques.

  51. Hello Neil,
    I like your dedication and knowledge towards consultation. I know that its never easy to consult anyone without having any knowledge about the client`s business.
    I will surely not do consulting, but the insights which you gave from your consulting experiences are valuable to help my business grow.
    Thanks a lot of sharing the importance of consulting. If not me, my cousin is ready to jump into consulting, he will surely be educated from you. Cheers! :-)

  52. I just love the way quicksprout sends message ! its just killing me, that post looks here like a good designed top magazines, You’re number one + lessons learned are always best summation ! Good Job Neil!

  53. very well explained sir ….. thanks for this information…:)

  54. Neil, Good Stuff.

    I also find that by being able to consult and assist other companies in specific problem areas, is that you develop additional knowledge and expertise that can be used in similar situations with other new clients, since many companies experience similar problems and don’t know how to solve them.

  55. Hey Neil, I’ve been following you for a while and appreciate your posts and helpful marketing tips. I’m actually thinking about jumping into the consulting biz and help people with their local seo. I know you got started in SEO, any tips aside from general consulting tips that would help me get started? Keep crushing it!

  56. Hello, Neil!
    Could you give me an advice. What I have to do to become a consultant. Now I`m a manager with some experience. What are the first steps? How can I find my first customers?
    Thank you!

  57. Absolutely! I like to tell people that 6 years as a consultant at a marketing consultancy was better than any MBA I could have gotten.

  58. Consulting is career everyone needs to experience? Wasn’t the case for me.

  59. I was really interested in the content of this article.

    But all those conversion-oriented pop-ups, links, forms, banners, etc. just put me off. You’re trying too hard to get us to convert.

    And that deeply impacts the image I have of your content. I had to stop reading halfway through. Affraid that you’d use my email to send me “newsletters” optimised for conversion, I even put a fake email address up there.

    I’m just leaving that here, because I’m sure all the online marketing guys like me, visiting this website, just bounce, when facing such hard-sell techniques.

    • I removed one popup so I hope that helps. As for the conversion stuff, I can’t help it as I need to generate income from the blog to cover all of my costs. I hope you understand. :(

  60. Neil,
    I currently work as a Management Consultant and it is a great experience. The biggest challenge with all my clients is changing their value stream. What they think is important now is not necessarily important anymore in the new future. This is what we call Human Engineering.

    • Rafael, that definitely is a tough situation. I think overtime values and the importance of certain operating sequences changes. It’s definitely important to keep up to date on new trends. Thanks for reading!

  61. Hi Neil,

    Recently I updated my LinkedIn profile and listed myself as a consultant. Little did I know the first company to come knocking would be Google. I do infrastructure management and was very honored when the Big “G” was interested in me. Unfortunately it didn’t work out because I couldn’t relocate to Mountain View but the recruiter did zero in on my consulting title.

    Joe

    • Joe, awesome! Sounds like your site did what it was supposed to: attract the right audience. Recruiters will often reach out to consultants because they have many of the traits a great employee has, and they work well with very little direction required. I am sure you will be contacted by many more recruiters!

  62. Are consulting jobs better or should one opt for software developer in an IT firm??
    Please explain the difference and pros and cons of each…
    Thanking you in advance….

    • Ashish, I wish it was as black and white as that. You really have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. Some variables to consider: passion, salary, your colleagues, and the environment.

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